The National Assembly (NA) said the European Parliament (EP) did not respect the Kingdom’s independence and sovereignty when it passed a resolution strongly critical of the recent conviction and sentencing of former opposition leader Kem Sokha for “treason”.

On March 16, the EP issued a seven-point resolution calling for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Sokha – former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – as well as an “end to the harassment of opposition politicians, NGOs and journalists”, a free and fair national election in July and a further suspension of the EU’s “Everything But Arms” preferential trade scheme.

They also urged the European Council to “adopt targeted sanctions, under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, to hold accountable those responsible for serious human rights violations and the dissolution and subsequent repression of the Cambodian opposition.”

The resolution came in the wake of Sokha being sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to 27-year imprisonment on March 3 for “conspiring with foreign powers to overthrow the government”.

“We reject the [EP] resolution, which in essence is a flagrant violation of the sovereign rights of a member state of the UN.

“Taking into account the Cambodian Constitution and all the prevailing national laws and regulations, particularly the civil and criminal codes,we reiterate our stance in conformity with the responses and statements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation… including the one issued on March 3, 2023, which emphasised that ‘crime is crime and cannot be justified by other aspirations’,” the NA resolution stated.

The NA said those in the EP who voted for the Sokha resolution are leftist parliamentarian groups known for their political abuse and interference into the internal affairs of Cambodia “because it is a smaller and weaker state”.

It said the EP’s resolution is in total disregard of the values of democracy, justice and the rule of law to which Cambodia has strictly adhered.

“We have observed with close attention that the EP, particularly the extreme leftist groups, have been very vocal in politicising the internal affairs of other countries at the cost of peace, stability, social harmony and socio-economic progress,” it stated.

The NA said that while Cambodia is grateful to the EP, European Council and the people of Europe for their support in the Kingdom’s development and in particular the fight against Covid-19 and in the post-pandemic recovery, it urges that all the European parliamentarians from different groups make efforts to promote a sincere, open and inclusive dialogue with Cambodia on the basis of mutual respect, trust, understanding and interest in the cause of peace, coexistence and mutual prosperity.

Royal Academy of Cambodia secretary-general Yang Peou said the EP resolution amounted to an interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs and a violation of its sovereignty.

“If the government agreed to do what the EP is calling for, this would mean that it is not implementing rule of law but acting upon the orders of others, and this would violate the court’s ruling,” he said.

“In my opinion, the government cannot do what the EU parliament has called for. The government will work as usual towards the election, while Sokha’s case will follow the court’s decisions,” he said.